Another Thanksgiving, Another Spiral Cut Ham on the Grill…

We had one of those late November Santa Anna conditions roll in just in time for Thanksgiving.  Probably had the warmest Thanksgiving Day we have experienced here around the old Pondee – I KNOW it was hotter than the “official” 91 degrees for our area.

Won’t be going into a lot of detail with this post – did a pretty full one about 4 years or so ago here:

That old post gives a better explanation/procedure – but the principles of using indirect heat are the same regardless of what you are baking on a grill.

This time, I simply used an aluminum insert for my 14″ Dutch Oven as a cooking pan with a “dome” of aluminum foil, reinforced with a very old stainless steel cooking tray to keep the bottom from folding due to the weight when I removed it from the grill later on..  They say to heat these at 350°F for 10-14 minutes per pound.  Ours was never frozen, so starting at refrigerator temperature, I calculated about 80 minutes on the grill before removing the dome, then another 20 or so after basting.  The end result was pretty good!

Had the left burner on full – then one next to it on low for about 10 minutes – then shut that 2nd burner down and left the other on full to sustain the baking temperature.  Throughout the next 80 minutes the hood thermometer read 400°F but I figure it was 325-350°F under that dome.

Late in the process, removed foil "dome", basted heck out of the ham, then used toothpicks to place pineapple rings everyplace I could.

Late in the process, removed foil “dome”, basted heck out of the ham, then used toothpicks to place pineapple rings everyplace I could.

After the ham was done, wrapped tightly in foil until Heidi was ready for me to start plating it up.

After the ham was done, wrapped tightly in foil until Heidi was ready for me to start plating it up.

It stayed pretty juicy in my opinion - and of course there will be tons of leftovers!

It stayed pretty juicy in my opinion – and of course there will be tons of leftovers!

Ma is ready!  Her presence at our table is reason enough alone for Heidi and I to be incredibly thankful in 2014!

Ma is ready! Hard to believe Heidi’s Mom is 89. Her presence at our table is reason enough alone for Heidi and I to be incredibly thankful in 2014!

Now we will be hoping all of our friends and family can enjoy a wonderful Christmas in 2014.  You can bet we will do our best to enjoy every moment!

DIY – Portable Hammock Stand & Schwenker

Well, we had a wonderful summer – cooking, camping, grandkids visiting, and now winter has finally arrived. I’ve decided to add another category to the blog, “Do It Yourself” – and will add some of the DIY projects that interest me over time.  This post will be the first installment of that new category.

Over this past year I’ve lined up several projects and recently started gathering the rest of the materials needed to bring one to fruition – building a “portable” Hammock Stand & Schwenker, (think German BBQ).  I could have used that Hammock part this summer while we were RV Camping with the 5th Wheel over at Santee Lakes.  Since one of the parts, (the ridge pole), is just over 10 feet long – the portability is a bit at question, but I could just toss it in the 5th wheel until we set up camp.  (“Portable” is a relative term?)

Background

I got the original idea for this some time ago when I heard of TurtleLady’s Bamboo Stand over on the HammockForums.net web site.  (I don’t post there – just “lurk”).  Later on, in the summer of 2013, user “Banana Hammock” posted a stand which also used two tripods with a ridge pole suspended between them which I found fascinating because his design used 3/4″ steel conduit.  His innovation was inspired by the German “Schwenker” design as seen in the article Heavenly Schwenker: German Recipe and Grilling Style.  (If you follow that link, you will see some pictures in the construction that heavily influenced my own efforts).  Unfortunately, all of Banana Hammock’s images showing his own creation have been removed and I can no longer find them – but the description and those pictures of the German BBQ were enough for me to proceed.

3/4″ Steel Conduit is available locally from Home Depot in 10′ lengths. I also picked up a couple of 3/8ths inch spring links, several carabiners, and a couple of Nite Ize Figure 9 Carabiner 150 lb. Black Rope Tightener.  (I was frankly surprised, pleasantly so, to find the latter at Home Depot).

1/2″ x 4″ eye-bolts with 9/16ths nuts on them were located on Amazon.com – National Mfg N221-309 1/2 x 4-Inch Zinc Eye Bolt – Quantity 10.

There are a few other things you would need, obviously a Hammock if you are interested in doing this – or if you are like me and already have one, you probably also have most of the other “accouterments” you would need.

That screwdriver and big old ball peen were originally my father's tools.  I think of him a lot any time I run into a project that requires a lot of patience.

That screwdriver and big old ball peen were originally my father’s tools. I think of him a lot any time I run into a project that requires a lot of patience.

None of the pictures available on-line presented a good way for spreading a half inch eye bolt far enough to accept two others - so this evening I just used a lot of patience and made it happen, (twice).

None of the pictures available on-line presented a good way for spreading a half inch eye bolt far enough to accept two others – so this evening I just used a lot of patience and made it happen, (twice).

Had to keep re-setting that big old screwdriver - its face is 1/2" - same as the eye bolt diameter.

Had to keep re-setting that big old screwdriver – its face is 1/2″ – same as the eye bolt diameter.

Eventually, having spread it as far as it would go driving straight into the eye, had to turn things to the side to spread it further.

Eventually, having spread it as far as it would go driving straight into the eye, had to turn things to the side to spread it further.

Take it easy Dave - - "patience" I can almost hear my dad whisper.

Take it easy Dave – – “patience” I can almost hear my dad whisper.

I considered using a steel splitting wedge to spread the eye open farther, but instead just used my hand for a clamp and gently tapped another eye until it seated inside the other one.

I considered using a steel splitting wedge to spread the eye open farther, but instead just used my hand for a clamp and gently tapped another eye until it seated inside the other one.

Then repeated with a 2nd eye-bolt - this looks just about right.

Then repeated with a 2nd eye-bolt – this looks just about right.

If you can do it once, and you are patient enough - you can repeat the process.  Later on I closed the two "open" eye-bolts with the ball peen.

If you can do it once, and you are patient enough – you can repeat the process. Later on I closed the two “open” eye-bolts with the ball peen.

"Fixin to get ready" - tape measure, cutting grinder tool, set up to clamp down 3/4" steel conduit, currently in 10' lengths.

“Fixin to get ready” – tape measure, cutting grinder tool, set up to clamp down 3/4″ steel conduit, currently in 10′ lengths.

Six pieces measured to 91" and marked for cutting - all I need is Heidi to come hold the ends.

Six pieces measured to 91″ and marked for cutting – all I need is Heidi to come hold the ends.

Good to go for the first cut.

Good to go for the first cut.

Heidi lay down an old towel to catch the filings - bt this is a grinder so there are no "steel splinters".  All six pieces cut to the same length with her help.  Marked the cut ends - I'll be driving the eye-bolt nuts into the other end of each one.

Heidi lay down an old towel to catch the filings – bt this is a grinder so there are no “steel splinters”. All six pieces cut to the same length with her help. Marked the cut ends – I’ll be driving the eye-bolt nuts into the other end of each one.

Gently tapping the 9/16 nut in using Dad's old ball peen.  After several false starts I settled in on sinking them about 3/4" into the pipe.

Gently tapping the 9/16 nut in using Dad’s old ball peen. After several false starts I settled in on sinking them about 3/4″ into the pipe.

This is the beginning of a tripod.

This is the beginning of a tripod.

This is sorta-kinda what it looks like put together.  I am considering re-closing the gap on the open one so I don't have to worry with it.  Doing it this way, one leg will always be just a little bit long, but since each leg is 7.5' long, its not enough to worry about.  I also put an eye-bolt in each end of a 10' section of steel conduit for the ridge pole.

This is sorta-kinda what it looks like put together. Doing it this way, one leg will always be just a little bit long, but since each leg is 7.5′ long, its not enough to worry about. I also put an eye-bolt in each end of a 10′ section of steel conduit for the ridge pole.

After tapping dents in the ends of all the conduit with eye-bolts driven into them to keep the nuts from sliding back out - decided to put things together for the first time.  Missy is very interested.

After tapping dents in the ends of all the conduit with eye-bolts driven into them to keep the nuts from sliding back out – decided to put things together for the first time. Missy is very interested.

Each tripod has a loop of 550 paracord looped down from one of the eye-bolts - here a 3/8ths inch carabiner - the 10' "ridge pole" attaches to that.

Each tripod has a loop of 550 paracord looped down from one of the eye-bolts – here a 3/8ths inch carabiner – the 10′ “ridge pole” attaches to that.

Hammock with "Snake skins" retracted.  Hooked up at about a 30 degree angle but I can tighten it just a bit.  Missy is trying to figure out how Dad is going to get in there...

Hammock with “Snake skins” retracted. Hooked up at about a 30 degree angle but I can tighten it just a bit. Missy is trying to figure out how Dad is going to get in there…

I want the ends of the ridge pole to be more or less "centered" under the tripod.  All forces are pulling "down" and serving to keep things tight.  Missy got to see me lay in it for just a few seconds..

I want the ends of the ridge pole to be more or less “centered” under the tripod. All forces are pulling “down” and serving to keep things tight. Missy got to see me lay in it for just a few seconds..

Those "Snake skins" are great - just slip them back over the hammock - roll everything up into a tight bundle and drop it into a bag or whatever.  Good stuff!  Next will be to rig a tarp for shade.  That also has Missy's approval.

Those “Snake skins” are great – just slip them back over the hammock – roll everything up into a tight bundle and drop it into a bag or whatever. Good stuff! Next will be to rig a tarp for shade. That also has Missy’s approval.

 So what about the “Schwenker”?

Well, I was going to combine it with one of the tripods for the Hammock Stand – but now that I’ve constructed it and know it was relatively easy – I am considering building a 3rd tripod specifically for the Schwenker grill.  Have just about decided that is the way I want to go – and already have a light duty winch, pulley and cable to support that project, (I’ll be over-building heck out of that one).  More later. :D

 

New Grill – Smoke Hollow 4-in-1 Combo Grill

Over the past couple of days have been enjoying our “new” grill.  I actually purchased it from Sam’s Club last year on a special, and it has taken me this long to finally get around to assembling it.  They are currently going for $349.00 at Sam’s Club which is the best buy by a long shot that I have found on them.  Several places on-line will sell you one for over $600 plus shipping if you want to pay it – I didn’t.  Since I took delivery on it at our closest Sam’s Club, there was no shipping/handling fee tacked on, shoot – you pay enough in taxation.

Right up front, I want to say that these are manufactured in CHINA, and while I had no *real* difficulty assembling it – I had to be very careful following the instructions and even with that extra care succeeded in putting a couple of items on backwards, then having to partially disassemble it to turn them around the correct way.  Also, while this is a wonderful design, the sheet metal used is pretty thin.  I will have to take good care of it in order to preserve it for an extended time.  (Think things like “seasoning” the entire interior of the fireboxes and grates – extra high-temperature flat-black paint, etc.)..  If this were manufactured out of stainless steel, it would be wonderful – but cost prohibitive, (at least for MY retired pay). ;)

Here is what it looks like fully assembled:

 

SmokeHollow4-in-1 with hoods closed

SmokeHollow4-in-1 with hoods closed

SmokeHollow4-in-1 with hoods open

SmokeHollow4-in-1 with hoods open

With 4 different cooking chambers, that works out to be 82″ Long x 53.5″ Tall x 23″ Deep.  Thus I nicknamed this one “Big Bubba”. ;)

Like the old “Hybrid Grill”, this one has an Infrared “Sear Burner” (Left) – a propane grill and a charcoal grill, but this one also has a smoker box/auxiliary grill out on the right side.  In essence, I am replacing our old grill and separate smoker with a single unit.

Here is what the “Marketeers” advertisement has to say:

Description

The grill that has it all! An infrared burner to sear steaks and seal in moisture; the convenience of a three-burner gas grill that can cook 20 hamburgers at one time; a charcoal grill with an adjustable charcoal pan for temperature control and authentic barbecue taste; and an offset fire box for smoking and indirect cooking. This grill is perfect for large gatherings or meals for the family.

Specifications

  • Infrared sear burner with porcelain-coated cast iron cooking grid quickly seals in moisture for perfect steaks
  • 3 burner gas grill with porcelain-coated cast iron cooking grids
  • Porcelain-coated warming rack for delicate foods and vegetables
  • Electronic ignition for easy lighting of all burners
  • Charcoal grill with porcelain-coated cast iron cooking grids
  • Adjustable charcoal tray and damper for temperature control
  • Off-set fire box for smoking and indirect cooking
  • Removable grease and ash pan for easy clean-up
  • 2 lower shelves and 2 condiment racks for storage

After completing the assembly, I spent the next day “seasoning” the inside of the grill – first with vegetable oil, then later re-seasoned the cast iron grill grates with Crisco, the same way I season black-iron pans and dutch ovens.  I also have quite a stock of High-Temp flat black spray paint from Home Depot to be used as needed.  (I did already spray the expanded metal shelves already as they were not completely covered by the manufacturer. <spit>).  Intend to go back and coat each bolt exposed to the outside whose coating was scraped by my Phillips screwdriver – also the rear vents on the propane grill which are known to be problem areas for rust.  All in all, if I properly maintain it, we should get some very good years of service out of this grill.

For our first time using the propane grill, covered it with frozen grill patties to look for the (invariable) hot and cold spots.  As it has been with every gas grill I’ve experienced, the right side of this one is slightly cooler than the left.  Now that I know, I can allow for it – also will use that side as the “cool side” for indirect cooking.  Also cooked off a package of frozen breaded chicken patties.  Everything turned out good, now looking forward to some steaks, portabello mushrooms, etc.

Yesterday was my first crack at the charcoal grill. (See previous post).  Have fallen in love with the “Adjustable charcoal tray” – I call it my “charcoal elevator”. Will have far better temperature control than I had on the old Weber style kettles, just as the “Hybrid Grill” had, but this design is even easier to operate, better leverage, and has one more elevation selection (now 6) than the old one did.

Finally, have some modifications in mind that I’ve already found on-line, (primarily YouTube videos posted by other owners of this grill).  Most of them will be on the charcoal/smoker side to improve performance with charcoal briquettes. Need to make a run to Home Depot for some parts, but that will be another post later on.  For now – I am a very Happy Camper with this new grill and look forward to a lot of great meals from it, all cooked outdoors. :)

Kielbasa Sausage, Bell Pepper & Onion on the Grill

This isn’t a recipe, more of a pictorial review..

One of Heidi’s favorite outdoor dishes is Kielbasa Sausage cooked with bell pepper and onion.  Our Son-in-law Jeff has perfected this dish over the last few years, but thought I would try my own twist, and revisit my old friends… The deep and shallow cast iron frying pans that make up the Lodge Logic Combo cooker. (I have been craving “Tater Tots” all week, so made that part of the equation for our dinner.

I wanted to use the charcoal side of our new "Smokey Hollow 4-in-1" grill, so fired up some briquettes in a Weber chimney for rapid preparation.

I wanted to use the charcoal side of our new “Smokey Hollow 4-in-1″ grill, so fired up some briquettes in a Weber chimney for rapid preparation.

Got a good start, now its just wait for the top briquettes to turn white.

Got a good start, now its just wait for the top briquettes to turn white.

 

That done, laid them out on one side of the "elevator" to do a little indirect cooking on some Tater Tots.

That done, laid them out on one side of the “elevator” to do a little indirect cooking on some Tater Tots.

Grates in place, kind of singing the Keilbasa sausage for flavor on both sides before cutting. Onions and bell pepper in deep fying pan.

Grates in place, kind of singing the Kielbasa sausage for flavor on both sides before cutting. Onions and bell pepper in deep frying pan.

Just about time to take that sausage to the cutting board.

Just about time to take that sausage to the cutting board.

We like 3/4" slices on a bias. Moved pre-heated pan to hot side.  After a couple minutes, added half a can of beer (MGD) to steam the veggies.

We like 3/4″ slices on a bias. Moved pre-heated pan to hot side. After a couple minutes, added half a can of beer (MGD) to steam the veggies.

Added my Tater Tots - been craving them all week!

Beer is steaming. Added my Tater Tots – been craving them all week!

Closed hood to trap heat for roasting the Tater Tots.

Closed hood to trap heat for roasting the Tater Tots.

Oh yeah, now we are cooking!

Oh yeah, now we are cooking!

Looks just about right.  Added a little "Sweet Baby Ray" BBQ Sauce, then stirred after this shot. Rotated both pans 180 degrees for more even cooking.

Looks just about right. Added a little “Sweet Baby Ray” BBQ Sauce, then stirred after this shot. Rotated both pans 180 degrees for more even cooking.

The Kielbasa dish is done, Tater tots need about another 5 minutes or so.

The Kielbasa dish is done, Tater tots need about another 5 minutes or so.

Plated up just the way we like it - and not a lot of cleanup. ;-)

Plated up just the way we like it – and not a lot of cleanup. ;-)

Guess I should mention, we like Hillshire Farms Smoked Polska Kielbasa sausage…  This is a simple meal, easy to cook outdoors, and one of our personal favorites.  Enjoy!

Solar Cooking Navy beans and ham

One of the best things about enjoying a big ham dinner is making effective use of the leftovers!  Heidi baked a fairly large, spiral-cut, ham in the oven yesterday, (Easter Sunday) – and after dinner I immediately started scheming on ways to use the rest of it for some outdoor cooking.  Decided it is way past time to break out the old All Season Solar Cooker (ASSC) as today and Thursday were supposed to be *excellent* “Solar Days” out here in East San Diego County.  This is our original ASSC, put together under Jim La Joie’s watchful eye, almost 3 years ago.  I still haven’t had to do any maintenance on it, other than wipe dust off of the reflective surface.

Picked over about 1/2 lb. of dry Navy beans and set them up to soak in water overnight.  Got up early, (for me), at 6AM figuring I would have coffee and start setting up.  One of the beauties of the ASSC design is that it can be configured/adjusted to take advantage of early morning and late evening sunshine – unlike the Solar Box Ovens which are limited to about 4 – 5 hours of cooking time.  With the ASSC you can cook any time there is sunshine.

Imagine my surprise when I walked out to our (hopefully earthquake-proof) steel shed and found the morning had brought in low clouds and fog thanks to a very thick marine layer.  No problem, knew it would just delay my “schedule” by a couple hours while old Sol burned it off.  Sure enough, by 9:30 there was more than enough sunshine to get started.  I set up a portable work-bench to use as a table out front.  We have an 11 mo. old Shepherd pup that, most assuredly, would be curious and might get hurt.  (I cannot stress enough – solar cooking can be dangerous around pets and small children.  We are talking real cooking temperatures with the ASSC and you MUST have due caution!

1 cup Navy beans soaked overnight in a little black anodized camping pot.

1 cup Navy beans soaked overnight in a little black anodized camping pot.

Set up the ASSC on the bench, then, (after draining), put the soaked beans in a 2 Qt. black anodized “Bush Pot” recently purchased from my friend, Alan Halcon, at his on-line “Outdoor Self-Reliance” store, along with a 4 Qt. version.  Covered the beans with about 1″ of cold water.   We already own one of those pots, but Alan’s price was so much more reasonable than what I had previously paid, I just couldn’t resist. :D

"Bush Pot" with lid in place.

“Bush Pot” with lid in place.

ASSC configured for "winter mode" initially.

ASSC configured for “winter mode” initially.

All Season Solar cooker set in “winter” mode to warm up – trivet was uncomfortable to handle after just a few minutes.  Decided the sun had already climbed high enough to flip it over for “Summer Mode”.

ASSC configured for "Summer Mode".

ASSC configured for “Summer Mode”.

Flipped the ASSC over into “Summer” mode and adjusted roughly to catch sun. (That trivet is hot already!)

Jim La Joie's ingenious little "Sunsight".

Jim La Joie’s ingenious little “Sunsight”.

Jim La Joie’s ingenious little “Sunsight”… You simply use the shadow of the nail head to show when you are precisely aimed at the sun.  So intuitive to use its hard to believe something so simple can be so effective.

So easy to adjust - a couple of clothes pins hold it in position.

So easy to adjust – a couple of clothes pins hold it in position.

Wow, I need to get a move on, 10 minutes and its getting hot out here!

Wind-proof chamber dramatically improves temperature and reduces cooking time.

Wind-proof chamber dramatically improves temperature and reduces cooking time.

Using our same old oven-proof glass pie plate and inverted bowl to create the cooking chamber.  Hard to believe what a dramatic difference they make…  On hot summer days, with little to no wind, you can get away without this set up – also you can use large oven bags when carrying the heavy glass is inconvenient – but for home use, or a “civilized base camp”, you just cannot beat this combination.  The increased weight of this cooking chamber additionally helps the ASSC remain stable when its a little windy.

After taking that last picture, it dawned on my that I had assembled the ASSC “wrong” in that those large, lower “flaps” should be outside rather than inside.  It is not affecting the heat in the cooking chamber, but does make adjustments a little “stiffer”.  Not a real problem so I’ll just leave it like it is for now, go inside and watch Jim’s assembly video again. (I haven’t peeked at it for a couple of years). <blush>

That pot was in place at 9:40 AM.  Time for another cup of coffee, then come back out about every 45 minutes or so to re-aim the ASSC at the sun.  After you have used these for a while, you tend to “pull a little lead” on the sun’s current position to extend the time between adjustments.  For beans, I like to keep after it to gain maximum temperature and shorten the cooking time.

12:30 PM, added diced ham, onion, and our favorite spices, (a little Chili powder, Cumin and Garlic powder).  Had to move workbench to allow for our large Palm tree out front.  My estimate of about 4 hours is a gross approximate.  The beans are done when they are soft…

Properly reconfigured the lower "flaps" on the ASSC.

Properly reconfigured the lower “flaps” on the ASSC.

Not quite 1PM, when I went outside to adjust to the “Sunsight”, decided to properly assemble those lower flaps – and tossed in a thermometer. Sun is at its zenith for this time of year, or just slightly past.  Our local PWS is reporting 83.5 ° outside.  Have to admit, I got into “blogging/facebook/etc.” and let the palm tree shadow interfere for about a half hour. <blush>  Moved the bench to its final destination and adjusted for the sun angle.  At 2:40 PM Heidi and I went out for a taste test, agreed its going to take a while longer to get to the consistency we enjoy – also needed salt and a little pepper.

Of course, then I got busy replacing a headlamp bulb on Heidi’s Hyundai, ran into problems (driver’s side is a pain), and forgot all about the beans until I got the car fixed and everything put back together.  Heidi just tested and they are certainly done now – another beauty of cooking with a solar reflector oven, its near impossible burn anything.  Bottom line, they are good and we will have them as a side dish with supper.  Fun day, except for the part playing auto-mechanic…

p.s. Supper was great!  Fried ham with potato salad, Navy beans, sweet corn, olives and cucumber/onion salad on the side.  My beans were not as good as Heidi normally cooks, but I’m working on it! Next time will thicken the soup with a little flour water, and not be so chicken on adding the spices.  Hit my bowl with about 6 splashes of Tabanero Hot Sauce and I was fine….

 

Cheesy Chili Hash Brown Bake

Upon reading Cheesy Chili Hash Brown Bake at MyRecipes.com – it sounded so easy I just *have* to give this one a shot!

“This 5-ingredient casserole features convenient frozen hash brown potatoes, a can of Sloppy Joe sauce and can of chili”.

That quote alone was enough to set my mouth watering. ;)

This image will be replaced with my own..

Around the old Pondee, we go through a lot of chili (surprise?), over the past few years we’ve enjoyed Sloppy Joes quite a few times, and all of us absolutely *love* shredded hash brown potatoes with cheese. I don’t believe this recipe can miss! (Of course I’ll have to mess with the original recipe a bit – shoot, its what I do! ;)).

ARG! Please see Note at the bottom of this recipe..

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 (15.5-oz.) can original sloppy joe sauce (We like “Manwich Bold”).
  • 1 (15-oz.) can chili with beans (we like the HOT Hormel Chili with beans).
  • 1/2 (30-oz.) package frozen country-style shredded hash browns (about 4 cups) (I used dehydrated and they were fine after re-hydrating for 12 minutes in hot water).
  • 2 cups (8 oz.) shredded Cheddar cheese (I used a shredded Mexican blend).
  • Optional – favorite spices to kick things up to your own taste. 8) Mine are Chili powder, garlic powder, cumin and Gooba Dust

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°. Brown ground beef in a large, deep, skillet over medium-high heat, stirring often, 7 to 10 minutes or until meat crumbles and is no longer pink. (I just HAD to add some diced onion). Stir in sloppy joe sauce and chili.  I used the deep side of the 10″ Lodge Logic Combo-cooker – perfect for this size recipe.
  2. Spoon chili mixture into a lightly greased (metal) 13- x 9-inch baking dish. Top with frozen hash browns.  ** I skipped transferring the mixture since I was using oven-ready cast iron – simply added my own spice preferences, cooked on the stove top a couple more minutes, then topped with the shredded hash browns.
  3. Bake, covered with heavy duty foil, at 425° for 30 minutes; uncover and bake 10 more minutes or until browned and crisp. Sprinkle with cheese, and bake 5 more minutes or until cheese is melted.

Note: If you use a large glass casserole, you will have to reduce the heat to 350° and extend the covered baking time to about 45 minutes instead of 30…

Having tweaked the original recipe into something we might enjoy, as listed above, will be giving this one a try later this week.

OK – here we go! :D

The magic ingredients - note: I used two cartons of shredded hash browns.

The magic ingredients – note: I used two cartons of shredded hash browns.

Browning lean ground beef with diced onion and spices

Browning lean ground beef with diced onion and spices

Added canned chili and sloppy joe mix with a little more chili powder

Added canned chili and sloppy joe mix with a little more chili powder

Covered with a little over 15 oz shredded hash browns

Covered with a little over 15 oz shredded hash browns

A little dusting with paprika never hurt anything.

A little dusting with paprika never hurt anything.

Covered with aluminum foil for 30 min bake at 425

Covered with aluminum foil for 30 min bake at 425

After baking 10 more min uncovered, added cheese and put back in the oven for a few minutes

After baking 10 more min uncovered, added cheese and put back in the oven for a few minutes

This one got Heidi’s immediate approval – she said this would be good at any camp site. ;)

I have one “self-critique” – while it was good, and we love them, I should have stuck with the original 15 oz or so of shredded hash browns – since I kinda went way over that, the ‘taters were a little out of proportion to the rest.  Next time, will try to keep my tweakish nature under control.  I can save the rest of the hash browns for breakfast! :D

~~~

 NOTE:  Well, maybe I WON’T be adding it to my repertoire of outdoor recipes – Heidi and I both had a bad (gastric) reaction the following morning/day after eating this one. Can’t nail it down to this food, and there have been some strange stomach bugs floating through East County this year – but at this point uncertain if we want to try it again.  -=dave=-

Fideo Laredo (Pondee style)

Recipe: Fideo Laredo

Found this one on Food.com, (link goes to correct page), and it sounded so good – just had to try it.  First, in our kitchen, then later on will make some more tweaks and give it a shot outdoors. ;)

 This is the picture on-line that attracted me.

“Fideo” is Spanish for “noodles”..  In Mexico, the tradition is to saute some onion in oil, (lard, fat), possibly with some pepper, then place the dry fideo in the pan and fry it until most is golden brown before introducing any liquids.  Since this particular recipe adds beef – the fideo, (I will use vermicelli), is browned separately..

The first thing I “tweaked” was the pasta – the original recipe calls for 4 ounces angel hair pasta and 8 ounces orzo pasta. ;) Also, I don’t care for garlic salt.. Never use the stuff. Finally, I replaced the 30 oz (total) diced tomatoes with 3 10 oz cans of Rotel which we always prefer.

Servings: 8-10

Labels: Main Dishes

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon Gooba Dust from Phil’s BBQ **optional but I love the stuff
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  •  16 oz vermicelli (fideo) – we do love pasta!
  • 1 onion (chopped)
  • 2 teaspoons diced jalapeno
  • 1 (4 ounce) can diced green chilies
  • 3 (10 ounce) cans Rotel diced tomatoes with Chiles
  • 2 cubes beef bouillon **I consider this or powdered bullion to be optional
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese (grated for garnish)

Directions:

  1. Brown ground beef with onion and bullion cubes, when almost done, drain, than add chili powder, red pepper, cumin, garlic powder, onion, garlic and jalapeno. Stir and finish browning.
  2. Set beef mixture aside.
  3. In a large deep skillet with a lid, heat oil and add fideo, (broken into small pieces). Breaking it up is important for browning the pasta without burning. 3 ” pieces seem to be about right to me. I tried longer on this first pass and burned a few strands – a lesson I shall NOT forget.
  4. Stir constantly for 2-3 minutes, allowing most of the fideo to brown lightly.
  5. Turn heat down to medium and add 2 cups of HOT water, (it WILL sizzle, be careful).
  6. Add beef mixture to skillet with pasta.
  7. Add canned tomatoes juice included.
  8. Add canned green chilies.
  9. Place lid on skillet and let simmer for 20-30 minutes, until pasta is cooked.
  10. Top each bowl served with grated cheddar cheese. (We use a grated Mexican blend of cheese).

Here is what ours looked like on the stove-top:

Fideo Laredo - almost done

Fideo Laredo – almost done

And plated up,  (bowled ;)):

 

Small serving topped with Mexican blend shredded cheese

Small serving topped with Mexican blend shredded cheese

Note:  I *love* Pace brand Picante Sauce and we keep it in the house constantly.  Some folks don’t care for it, otherS like to add their own hot sauce like Tapatillo.  We keep both handy. ;)

This is a pretty good main dish – but it absolutely CRIES for side-dishes, starting with a good salad.  You might want to  put out some home made garlic toast with it.

Urrp.. Not bad – lots of leftovers since only Heidi and I are here this evening, hoping its like Chili or good Spaghetti and tastes even better on the 2nd day! 8) Am already scheming about how I will handle moving this recipe outdoors, using my Lodge Logic Combo-cooker and a new grill.

 

Lazy Man’s Beef Jerky…

It has been a *very* busy Summer around the old Pondee, and am ashamed to admit how much I have taken advantage of Jeff’s, (our son-in-law), willingness to help with all of our “projects”.  From getting our old 30′ 5th Wheel Trailer both weather and road-worthy again, erecting a new steel out-building for my future shed/shack/shop, to taking on a plumbing problem that led to a mini-remodel of our half-bathroom, and many, many more in between. THANK YOU Son, until you are better paid! :)

Back on topic, my passion for cooking outdoors is still there – and it is one which Jeff shares completely, but every now and then you hit on something worth sharing that is done indoors too.  I think all of us have gone the more traditional routes of thin-slicing and marinating beef or venison – then using the oven, grill, smoker, solar or electric dehydrator, to make jerky. (I confess I’ve never tried the Native American means, but have been tempted).  Until purchasing an upgrade to our old, round, dehydrator a few years ago, I had never thought of using lean ground beef – then I hit on a kind of Nesco “kit” and the grand-kids almost did back-flips over the result, (so did Jeff. :D)… I think the best thing about doing it the “Lazy Man’s” way, is that the great results are repeatable, time after time. Here is what Heidi and I use today to get those huge smiling faces:

Hardware:

NESCO (American Harvest) FD-80 Snackmaster Square Dehydrator & Jerky Maker (see Notes)

Dehydrator

Dehydrator

Nesco BJX-8 Jumbo Jerky Works Kit
(
Primarily for the Jerky gun)

Jerky gun

Jerky gun

Spices:

Nesco BJ-18 Jerky Spice Works, Original Flavor, 18-Pack
Nesco American Harvest BJH-6 Jerky Spice Works, Hot and Spicy Flavor, 6.9oz box

Ground Beef:

We have been using the leanest we could find in our local markets. At present, our local Albertsons has a 96.4% lean product sold by the pound under “Ground Sirloin”.  We use 3 lbs per batch, which makes almost 4 trays.

Procedure:

We like to use a 2:1 ratio – two packets of “Original” to one packet of “Hot-N-Spicy”, along with 3 packets of the “cure” that comes with each. I pre-mix them with a fork in a measuring cup, adding some garlic powder, chili powder, cumin and cayenne pepper, but in sparing amounts. (If it were just me and the eldest granddaughter, I wouldn’t be so sparing. 8))…

After full thawing, put all 3 lbs of beef in a large mixing bowl, roll up your sleeves and get mixing, (it helps to have an assistant here and later on to slowly add in the spice mix while you are at it).

Load the Jerky Gun by hand, (again really need that assistant! Thanks Honey!) Cover with the “two-slot” cover and tighten down the screw-on holder. (This permits you to squeeze out two strips of jerky at a time).

One tray at a time, squeeze out the jerky strips, having your helper handy with a knife to kind of cut off each pair of strips at about 5″ length is a HUGE help!  You should get about 1 tray full for each load of the gun.

Mixture laid out with Jerky gun

Mixture laid out with Jerky gun

Set the dehydrator for maximum temperature (160 on our particular unit).  Prepare for your house to start smelling like the beef jerky factory it just became.

Wow - can you smell that?

Wow – can you smell that?

The directions say “4 to 6 hours”, and I always go with 6.  At about 3 hours, or the half-way point, I unplug – pat each strip dry with paper towels, flip each strip over, then pat again.  Do this with each tray, then replace them, reversing their order. Plug back in and let dehydrate for the rest of the period.  When done, you will probably want to pat dry the pieces again prior to packaging in zip-lock baggies.

Half-way point, pat with paper towels, flip, pat again

Half-way point, pat with paper towels, flip, pat again

Finished product, may want to pat with paper towels again

Finished product, may want to pat with paper towels again

NOTES:

Beef Jerky is fun, and the above combination of ingredients is just what makes our family particularly happy.  Play with your own combination of spices, or go ahead and do sliced strips with marinade.  *Warning* if you decide to try using a product called “Liquid Smoke” I would most strongly recommend you do so very, very, sparingly or you could waste a whole batch of meat. ;)

The brand/size of our dehydrator is unimportant – but the temperature of around 160 degrees IS important if you want to try this.  You can get by with a lower temperature, but if you do – it REALLY needs to be high enough to kill bacteria – and your cooking time will be far, far longer than 4-6 hours if you want to stay well and healthy with this process.

If you can acquire a dehydrator with square trays, it really does enhance this process – we get about 24 5″ strips of jerky on each tray.

OBTW, the Excalibur model of food dehydrators really IS the “Caddy” of them all.  If you can afford one, you would probably love that one even more than we love our big Nesco.

Just one final thought – we like stuff that is hot and spicy – but before you try kicking things up a notch, (like my penchant for adding my favorite spices to cornbread, etc.), you might want to just try a batch using the “Original” spice mix first – then proceed from there.  Your pallet may not be as “spice tolerant” as ours. :)

Wow! Is it Summertime already?

What happened to Spring? Seems it just got started yesterday! :)

Nice and warm around the Pondee for the first day of Summer, 2012. Lots of good stuff going on – Heidi is now on vacation and today was the last day of school for two of our teen-age granddaughters, (the teenager in Florida has already started her vacation). Got to see my eldest Grandson for a short visit just last week. Boy is growing like a weed!

Life is good!

-=dave=-

Happy Easter!

Not doing much on the old blog here lately, but we have already accomplished a ton of projects around the old Pondee and have yet another, pretty major one, in progress. (All of the accomplishments are primarily due to the efforts of our Son-in-law, Jeff, and Heidi’s ever-able assistance).

Today is no exception, Jeff has completed smoking yet another ham for our Easter dinner and is currently carving it.  Glad you can’t smell it – I could get trampled in the rush to get a sample. ;)

Happy Easter Sunday everybody – I wish everyone could be as blessed as I personally am this Sunday!  -=dave=-